FARMER OF THE EASTERN SLOPE 185 might just as well go out of existence, and good riddance, too. There was, therefore, the continual struggle between the Buddhist goal to freach a spiritual void and arrive at a non-personal spiritual existence, free from all personal attachments, and a more realistic Confucian sense of duty towards one's fellow men. The question of salvation is, after all, only the achievement of spiritual harmony in which the baser instincts of man can be brought under control of his higher nature. If one could attain such a spiritual harmony through intelligent self- discipline, one did not have to leave human society entirely in order to achieve salvation. For instance, there is the question of the fight against evil or evils in human society. The neo-Confucianist Chu Shi criticised Su Tungpo's two poems written on his coming out of prison as showing no intention to check himself and start a new life. Those two poems, as we have seen, seemed to show that it was the same old Su Tungpo writing. The question is, did he intend to reform or not? Did he mean to keep his mouth shut and stop criticising things that were wrong in the country? To his less intimate friends he gave one answer; to his best friends he gave another. There are two interesting letters that he wrote to friends to whom he revealed his innermost convictions. One was to his close friend Li Chang. The latter had written poems to comfort him in his misfor- tune, but their tone was too sentimental for Su Tungpo, who wrote the following reply: "Why are you like this? I had expected you to be brave in trouble. It is true that we are growing old and are in disv tress, but down in our bones we are conscious of having done the right thing, and with all the philosophy that we have learned, we should be able to take life and death with a laugh. If you are pitying me be- cause I have been overtaken by misfortune, then we are in no way different from the uneducated. . . . We are in present difficulties. But, if an occasion comes up again when we can do something to benefit the people and show our loyalty to the ruler, we shall do it regardless of all consequences for ourselves and leave the rest to the Creator's will. I wouldn't say this to anybody except yourself. Please burn this letter after reading it. Other people may misunderstand." To Wang Kung, who got the worst of the deal in the prosecution of Su's case, and who was now exiled to the remote south-west, Su Tungpo wrote several letters. He first expressed his sorrow for causing him all this ^trouble, but then said that on receiving Wang Kung's letter, he saw that Wang was able to enjoy the consolation of philosophy. "Now I really know your truly amiable character and entertain the hope that in my old age when we meet again, I may still be counted among your friends. . . ." He went on to speak of the Taoist art of prolonging life, to which he was applying himself.